So, every now and then someone will ask how I got down the “hopeless” path of conceptualizing musical scales and deeper into scalar applications in music.
Over many years, but starting as a very young man, I was fortunate to listen to… and thoroughly enjoy… a lot of quite unconventional musical artists, plus their music.
I heard compositions by Monk that blew my mind. I heard a record called “Shinola” from John Scofield. I heard a composition by Phillip Catherine called “Nineteen and Seventy Fourths”. Pianist Joachim Kuhn did a work called “Preview”. A ton of Allan Holdsworth stuff.
Just so much stuff that I knew went beyond the Major Scale based tunes that I was familiar with.
It was most clear to my ear that these were most creative works and departures from the usual “formulas” used to conceive and compose music.
After reading Ramon Ricker’s book “Modal Mastery”, Mick Goodrick’s book “The Advancing Guitarist” and shortly thereafter Holdsworth’s “Just for the Curious” it dawned on me the basis for many amazing, inspiring, unusual… but most importantly… beautiful works I’d heard was rooted in the creative, but logical application of scales.
Furthermore being composed from scales beyond which I had known.
In his book, Holdworth mentioned very casually “being able to see INSIDE scales”: such to create his amazing, extraordinary harmonies and incredible tunes from these.
Reading this made me think deeply.
But I also acutely, painfully became aware that even the awareness of such scales… any scale… is only one-third of the equation.
The second third is indeed “being able to see” / conceptualize the use of the scale and having the ability to do so more quickly, plus easily. Instead of spending a lot of time and thinking really hard about the intervallic, modal and harmonic elements of any scale, to have it simply revealed at a glance would aid experimentation and increase the potential for easily thinking creatively about any scale.
Having this desire for musical creativity caused me to imagined the MAMI Notes Chords Scales Charts Diagrams as a solution… handy references, compiled into book form… such to provide this experimentation.
The final third of the equation is the charm.
It is in developing ones musical ear and abilities, such that you can use scales for GOOD and not EVIL.
By GOOD, I mean in ways that are musically relevant, interesting, significant, creative and meaningful.
Uses that ultimately become part of your style, sound and compositions.
By EVIL, I mean just thoughtlessly and literally playing scales. Doing so by rote… and devoid of creativity, hearing, or deliberate musically purposeful application.
There is music in scales and good music in any scale: the goal is to discover it.
It doesn’t matter if you find it by feel, or technically.
Inspiring ideas are gold: just go forth and experiment.
Seriously: it’s as simply as this.
Anyway below are ways to think about scales applications: FOR GOOD.
A couple of musicians whose scalar concepts… and scale applications… that I’ve studied for years are both Pianists.
Barry Harris’ 6th Diminished Concept is a scales-based application that explains everything that I was hearing… that seemed so deep, plus complex… for so many years in progressive jazz harmony. It really is just brilliant stuff to come to understand: if you wish to step into more advanced harmonic… and even melodic… experimentations!
George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept, is another amazing paradigm!
In musical circle discussions, it seems so often misunderstood, but has an incredibly practical… and IMHO simple purpose… at it’s basis.
Admittedly George’s original and dense presentation definitely convoluted the logic of his concept.
Ugh… talk about “the pot calling the kettle”… LOL!
Anyway, I never had the chance to confirm with Mr. Russell his reasoning behind his concept, but in study… and IMHO… the very basic point of The Lydian Chromatic Concept and his lydian scale centered approach is to systematically organize scales for use in composition and improvisation.
George did so… arranging his primary scales in an immutable order… by their increasing level of consonance into dissonance within itself: this being as applied from the scale’s root note.
In this system the lydian scale represents the brightest, most sweet intervallic arrangement of seven grouped notes: which then descends by successively darker scales… again in relationship to the root note… in specific order.
I’m probably doing as poor of a job explaining this all as George (LOL), but IMHO the grand, valuable takeaway is that as a composer, improviser, musician… by using this system… it is possible to more deliberately create specific ideas and compositions: that speak emotionally.
His is a practical… and quite literally… modal way of thinking: Lydian based harmonies representing the happiest, brightest sounds / feels and musical colors, descending all the way down several scales to finally the darkest, non-consonant scale / note grouping.
when I think deeply able this concept: the practical ability to apply musical colors and ultimately willfully, specifically invoke any of a wide range of feelings upon your listeners seems to me to ultimately represent among the most powerful tools for creativity in the musical arts.
Again there IS POWER in scales.
They just must be used for GOOD and not EVIL… 😉
Every day I pray that I can use some scale for total goodness.
Some days the heavens opens up an “easy”, bountiful harvest of ideas.
Unfortunately the dark side happens too: sometimes far too often for my tastes… :-/
All part of the experimentation and creative process.
It’s either this frustration and ultimately the joy of discovery: or giving up creativity to always playing what you know… and even what other people have always played… that works.
Creativity: it’s 50% COURAGE and 40% WILLPOWER…
If interested please be sure to sign up for future updates: as I plan to do some charting of, plus heavy analysis of some of the core scales from both of these concepts.
Live Well and Prosper in all of your Endeavors!